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Escaped tiger from Georgia zoo shot after killing man

Escaped tigerA tiger that escaped from Tbilisi zoo in a freak flood mauled a man to death in the Georgian capital on Wednesday before being gunned down by police, officials said.

The interior ministry had initially said the animal was a lion and deployed special forces to hunt down the beast which had been on the loose since the weekend flooding that killed at least 17 people.

But ministry spokeswoman Nino Giorgobiani later told AFP: “It was one tiger. It has been liquidated.”

The attack came just two days after the country’s prime minister said all the animals which were swept from the zoo in the flood — including lions, bears and a hippo — had been killed or captured.

Witnesses told Georgian television they saw a person being mauled by a white tiger near  Heroes Square next to the zoo.

“It was a white tiger, a big one. It attacked a man, it seized him by the throat,” one agitated witness told the Imedi channel.

The victim, a 43-year-old man, “was hospitalised with cardiac arrest and a severed carotid artery,” the head of Tbilisi’s Republican Hospital, Avtandil Imedadze, told AFP.

“The injuries were fatal, doctors were unable to restore his heart beat to save him,” he said.

 

– Five people still missing –

 

The Georgian government had initially warned residents to stay indoors after the disaster, which wrecked the zoo after the Vere river burst its banks on Sunday after heavy rain.

The flooding claimed the lives of at least 17 people, including three zoo workers, and caused massive damage to the city’s central districts, with five people still missing.

The escaped animals were seen roaming the flood-ravaged streets in the wake of the disaster, but Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced Monday that all the escaped animals had been killed or captured.

Secretary of Georgia’s Crisis Management Council, Mindia Janelidze, blamed the zoo administration for misinforming the government that there were no more animals on the loose.

Over half of the zoo’s 600 animals were either drowned in the muddy waters or were later shot by police.

Georgian media said the tiger had been hiding in a warehouse and escaped the citywide hunt for the escaped creatures.

A witness told local television that victim  had been assessing the damage to the building.

The haunting pictures of frightened or dead animals made headlines around the world and stirred controversy over the government’s handling of Georgia’s deadliest floods in decades.

Animal rights activists have demanded an investigation into revelations that in at least some of the cases, the animals did not need to be shot.

But zoo director Zurab Gurielidze — who nearly lost his life trying to save the animals from the flood — has defended the government’s response, saying officials did their best to protect people.

Garibashvili said Wednesday that rebuilding the damaged roads and infrastructure could cost the government up to $45 million (40 million euros).

 

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